Living with pain day in and day out is taxing, both physically and mentally. There are many different approaches sufferers can try, one of which is hypnotherapy.
With five broken discs in her neck and lumbar region, hypnotherapist Carol Hickson has experienced chronic pain personally and now describes herself as pain-free. Here she explains how she uses hypnotherapy with clients who suffer from chronic pain.
Having worked extensively with clients suffering from chronic pain I continue to be in awe of the improvements that can be achieved either by reducing the pain or, in many cases, removing it. Under hypnosis, I address the problem from an emotional level, through the unconscious mind.
According to research, trauma and negative experience remain ‘stuck’ in our bodies at a cellular level. Our body holds the somatic imprint of what the trauma ‘felt’ like at the time that it happened and the emotions that were present.
The word trauma is often misunderstood. People who associate it only with major disasters often hold the belief that their personal ‘trauma’ does not deserve to be labelled as ‘real’ trauma. But trauma does not have to be violent or physically injurious. In fact, any experience which deeply affects us, like divorce, hospitalisation and accidents (major or minor), can all result in residual trauma.
Generally, when we have an injury, our body’s capabilities mean that we heal. There may be lasting damage, but we are designed to find new routes and ways to deal with it.
I say ‘generally’ because some injuries are so extensive that full physical recovery is not possible. This article is concerned with those who have not received such catastrophic injuries but live with chronic pain which could be from a variety of causes including back pain, dental issues, osteoarthritis and so on.
The trauma often persists in the subconscious mind and, so, it is at this level that we address the situation. Under hypnosis, we encourage the client to acknowledge that they have suffered damage at a physical level, but that does not mean that continued pain is inevitable.
Acceptance can be difficult because people often misunderstand and believe that if they accept the pain then they resign themselves to it and this goes against their desire to live pain-free.
But, acceptance is a vital part of therapy.
Whilst there is an internal battle between where the client currently is and where they want to be, there can be little progress.
From a place of acceptance, the client reconnects with his/her body. We do this through the body scan: the client becomes an observer of their body. Under hypnosis, the client learns how to reconnect and renew that relationship.
Once the client is comfortable being ‘in’ their body we can then track back to the origin of the initial injury.
From this place of safety, we consider the pain, often in metaphorical ways, asking the subconscious mind to direct us towards what is preventing the body from healing. We become observers of both our mind and body.
If we notice that the pain shifts or changes we can begin to challenge its validity and purpose. If we can change the pain under hypnosis, for example, its location or intensity, then we have reason to believe that it is being ‘propped up’ by emotional issues in our subconscious mind.
Under hypnosis, we consider whether there is any benefit in holding onto the pain. There is no judgement. It’s just a gentle exploration; understanding that the subconscious mind is habitual and tries to protect from perceived danger both emotional and physical. The results are often astounding. We should never underestimate the power of the brain to heal.